Is Beer Good For the Brain?
Let’s all agree up front that excessive beer consumption – or any type of binge drinking – is bad for your brain. Not to mention for the rest of your body.
But what about the occasional beer or micro-brew on a hot sunny day, or a dark stout when the weather’s chilly?
A new study says that an occasional beer may have a surprising benefit for your brain.
The researchers collected data on the the alcohol consumption habits of over 125 participants from the ages of 35 to 70. They also were able to objectively measure the amount of amyloid plaque present in participants’ brains.
Normally, this wouldn’t be possible. But because the scientists used individuals who have recently passed – as part of a program called the Helsinki Sudden Death autopsy Series – they were able to use this data for their study.
When the results came in, they noticed that people who consumed light to moderate amounts of beer had significantly less amyloid build-up in their brains. What’s even more surprising is that when looking at other types of alcohol – namely wine and other spirits – they found no significant associations with amyloid plaques.
This comes as a bit of a surprise. There’s a solid amount of research that says that wine is superior when it comes to brain and heart benefits. Largely due to the antioxidants found in wine.
So it’s not that wine doesn’t measure up, it just means beer might have a leg up in this instance.
Why Does It Matter?
The reduction of amyloid plaque in the brain is a big deal because studies have linked the build-up of this substance to cognitive decline and dementia. This study hints that light to moderate intake of beer could have a protective effect against dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The finding also bolsters other research that has looked at alcohol’s protective effect for the brain. Another study – published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia – followed over 3,000 people that were aged 75 and older.
Participants had no signs of dementia at the beginning of the study and were followed for six years.
The study found people who drank moderates amount of alcohol had a 37% reduction in the risk of developing dementia than those who didn’t drink.
The potential to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s isn’t the only benefit that’s been associated with beer and alcohol.
While it’s good news for light to moderate beer drinkers, it’s important to note that some of these benefits could be explained by the social nature of having a drink. Such as partaking with friends or family. So it’s best not to regard them as scientific facts, simply associations.
How Much is Moderate?
It may help to give a little context, since “light” or “moderate” could mean different things to different people.
For most studies, though, light to moderate consumption means 1 to 2 drinks a day for men, and just 1 drink per day for women. When talking about beer, this equates to 12 ounces of 5% alcohol.
While some of you outgoing, extroverted types are already figuring out how to game the system to justify some extra-curricular antics (2 to 4 beers at 2.5% alcohol is the same thing, right?), the message is pretty clear. Light to moderate consumption is a small amount and doesn’t include binge drinking.
However, there’s nothing wrong with kicking back with a cold one and giving your brain a mental high-five. In fact, it may even be right.